by Phillip Starr

At different times when I was studying under my gong-fu instructor, he’d drop what I call “morsels” for me to chew on. Some seemed rather small and seemed insignificant; I’d discover their real value later on. What was important was whether or not I noticed them, picked them up, and consumed them. He was always watching to see what I’d do. Some of my classmates would ignore these crumbs of information and those who did found fewer and fewer tidbits were dropped for them. They expected full-blown “meals” of a sort but they never got them…

Of course, I asked why such small crumbs were presented at different times; wouldn’t it be more efficient to give me the whole meal? My sifu shook his head and frowned a bit as he replied, “No. I give you small pieces only when you are ready for them.” He went on the explain as best he could in English that to give me a whole meal would be like setting a full Thanksgiving dinner before a toddler whose teeth had not all come in yet. The youngster simply isn’t physically capable of partaking of the sumptuous feast and even if he could, he’s too young to truly appreciate it. He’d stuff his mouth full of everything that would fit – kind of like a hungry squirrel – and he’d fail to savor the various flavors of the different dishes.

The size of the morsels had to be just right (so I could physically “chew” and digest them without too much trouble) and they had to be dropped at the right time (age, in martial arts terms). And in the right sequence.

And so it is with my own students. Occasionally, one will ask, “Why didn’t you mention this earlier?” I tell them that they weren’t yet ready to hear it or physically able to do it. Then there are a few who allege, “You CHANGED it!” I calmly tell them that nothing has been changed; they’re just seeing another aspect of what they’ve already learned. Further outbursts will put a quick end to any new morsels…

The Legendary Iron Palm

by Phillip Starr

The legendary “iron palm” (called “tieh-shou” in Chinese, which literally means “iron hand”) is often very different from what many people think it is. Masutatsu Oyama, founder of the Kyokushin style of Japanese karate, had very heavily calloused hands with which he would split 25 lb. stones, paving bricks (the old kind that were used to “pave some old streets and they’re as hard as iron), and other such objects, had “conditioned hands” and feet, but not the ancient “iron palm.” The same thing holds true for Master Higashionna of Goju-ryu karate in Okinawa. He has heavily conditioned many of the striking surfaces of his hands and feet but this is a far cry from the Chinese iron palm.


The iron palm has little to do with developing heavy callouses or breaking coconuts. It is a special technique that enables the practitioner to transmit most of the force of his blow to an area beneath (or quite a distance from) the target that he strikes. For instance, a blow to the abdomen would leave no external evidence of a blow but the strike or punch could rupture internal organs without leaving any bruising on the surface of the flesh…or a blow to the arm may result in a ruptured liver (the target is a considerable distance from the point of impact) and again, no bruising is caused on the arm!

There is a famous photo of iron palm and Shao-lin Master Gu Yu Cheong, who practiced a form of northern Shao-lin gong-fu. The photo depicts him breaking a very large stack of bricks. You’ll notice that he’s no heavily-muscled hulk, nor were his hands calloused. When I was in China back in 1982, I walked past a construction site on a Sunday (no workers were present) and noticed a pile of bricks. I decided to break one so that I could determine if they were much different from bricks made in the U.S. I was shocked when I picked one up and it was light as a feather! I struck one and it virtually exploded…and I realized that the bricks were simple baked clay; U.S. And European bricks have a lot of filler in them, making them very strong and hard. Not so in China at that time. Although the experience didn’t do much for my sense of security as we visited many brick buildings, I understood that there was a considerable difference in the quality of bricks made in the West and those in China (this has now changed; in 2013 I did the same thing and found that the current bricks produced in China are now properly mixed with fillers and very strong).

What many people don’t know about Master Gu is that HE COULD SELECTIVELY BREAK ANY BRICK IN THE STACK while leaving the others intact. If you asked him to split the 5th brick from the bottom, he could do just that… and THAT is a true “iron palm.”

At that time (the early 1900’s), China traded with numerous nations, including Russia. Now, several European boxers had had matches with local gong-fu adepts and oftentimes, beat them soundly. Gu stepped up to the plate and trounced several foreign boxers. On one occasion, Russian sailors were teasing him because they wanted another match.

Gu knew that the Russians often brought some fine race-horses with them and they would race them against Chinese steeds. Not wishing to waste any more time crossing fists with the foreigners, he asked them to bring out their finest horse.

A confused ship’s captain complied and had his men bring out a large Russian race-horse. Gu said he would provide a good example of gong-fu for them and he placed one hand on the horse’s back. He suddenly slapped the horse’s back (some say that he simply pressed on it) and the animal immediately collapsed, dead on the spot. The captain ordered an autopsy and it was found that most of the horse’s viscera had been severely ruptured! Gu wasn’t challenged to any more boxing bouts.


Iron palm training is tedious and often painful. Contrary to what many gong-fu enthusiasts may think, it involves much more than repeatedly slapping a small cloth sack full of beans or iron shot (the old-timers never used iron pellets because it was too expensive and some said it might adversely affect one’s health). There’s much, much more to it and training must be done at least six days a week (a training session might last for more than 90 minutes). Special form(s) of qigong are also practiced and special medicine(s) is applied to the hands after each session. Many, if not most, of the current commercially made “iron palm” medicines available today are actually watered-down forms of what is known as “bruise linament.” However, there are some herbalists who still produce the traditional brew (one of them is my good friend, Miles Coleman, who owns Black Belt Herbs, and I understand that Mr. Dale Dugas also produces a high-quality iron-palm medicine…they’re both on Facebook).

There are training exercises that are intended to strengthen the legs and hips, build power in the grip, and several of them are directed at teaching the practitioner to transmit energy far beneath the surface of the blow (although the exercises don’t appear to foster such skill, they do so without the students necessarily being consciously aware of it). To develop this rare skill requires courage, determination, and the tutelage of a good teacher who has walked the same path.

The Origins of Xingyi Liuhe Quan

by Will Wain-Williams

Xinyi Liuhe Quan is a very old, and somewhat rare system of Chinese martial arts, originating in the Chinese military before being passed down among Hui Muslim communities and then finally finding its way to Shanghai at the turn of the 20th century. The system is considered an “internal” style of martial arts, a fairly fuzzy term, which implies that power is derived through relaxation and correct alignment of the body as opposed to brute force. It is considered the ancestor of several more modern martial arts systems such as Xinyi Quan and Da Cheng Quan.

Picture3Movements and strategy

The movements and strategies of Xinyi Liuhe Quan reflect the military nature of the system, as legend has it they were derived from the famous general and patriot Yue Fei, who made a system of hand-to-hand combat based on his high level of skill with the spear and bow-and-arrow. The movements are outwardly linear, however they utilize coiling of the body to generate power, and require flexibility and strength in the hips and waist. There are no high kicks or flashy, performance based movements. The overruling strategy is to engage the opponent directly and finish the fight as quickly as possible, focussing all your power forward. If you imagine a regiment of troops in battle, all marching forward towards the enemy, then this concept is easy to understand. Just as a regiment moves as a whole unit, in Xinyi Liuhe Quan, the body also moves as one. The Chinese word Liuhe in fact means “six harmonies” and refers to the feet, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and hands all moving unison. At the same time the practitioner must have a kind of “killer intent” when they fight, concentrating totally on the task at hand, which is one of several interpretations of Xinyi, which literally translates as heart-mind.

Picture2The system

The core of the system is made up of Shi Da Xing, or ten great shapes. In fact, in Shanghai, the system is colloquially known just by that name. The ten great shapes are ten different animals, however it doesn’t mean imitating animals movements, rather understanding and implementing the characteristics of certain animals, for example the raw power of how a tiger pounces on prey, the agility of a monkey or the speed and viciousness with which an eagle swoops. The ten animals are: hawk, eagle, chicken, swallow, snake, dragon, bear, tiger, monkey and horse. Each animal has its own strategies and techniques, and suits a person of a certain body type, for example a large bulky framed person might focus on bear, which uses a lot of heavy power to overwhelm, whereas a slim framed person might focus on swallow, which swoops down suddenly only to dart up again unexpectedly. Several weapons are also taught, including of course, the spear, as well as the sabre, sword and two-sectioned staff. The weapons are regarded as an extension of the hands, and so the techniques and strategies are much the same regardless.


Besides being an effective fighting system, Xinyi Liuhe Quan is also well known for the longevity of its practitioners. Many masters have lived to be in their 90s and even 100s and practiced right up to their last days. This is due to the holistic workout gained through training; there are three levels a student will go through. The first will be training of the muscles, the second is the training of the tendons and bones, and the last level is the training of the blood and qi. The combination of relaxation and tension, as well as the twisting movements of the trunk of the body ensure a whole body workout, while various meditative exercises are also carried out to train the mind.


Xinyi Liuhe Quan was passed down in Henan province among communities of Muslim Hui people, who were historically very conservative and closed people, due to discrimination by the Han majority. It is possibly due to this that the system was able to remain relatively unchanged and preserve the brutal nature that arose from its military origins. It was brought to Shanghai early in the twentieth century by a man named Lu Song Gao, a native of Zhoukou County in Henan. Born in 1875 and passed away in 1961, he began his martial arts training during childhood, studying under the seventh generation master Yuan Feng Yi. As a young man he took a job as an armed bodyguard escorting cargo around China, before moving to Anhui and Nanjing, before finally settling in Shanghai where he was hired to work security at a flour factory. It was here that he had a lot of free time to refine his art, and his reputation grew as an excellent fighter. During this time he made acquaintance with a man named Ding Ren 丁仁, who was also a native of Henan.  Ding was also highly, and was two generations higher than Lu. Being impressed with Lu’s skill, he told him that passing on Xinyi Liuhe Quan would be his responsibility, and so spent the next six months visiting him in the Mosque daily to learn all he could from him.

Keeping the style alive

Transmission outside of the Muslim community is generally acknowledged as beginning with a man named Jie Xing Bang, who was originally a native of Hebei province, but grew up in Shanghai where he was an underground agent for the communist party while working as a police detective for Yangpu district during the Republic era. At 1.9m tall, he was keen on martial arts from a young age, and in order to study Xinyi Liuhe Quan pretended to be a Muslim to gain access. He became a student of Lu Song Gao and became a top class fighter who was admired by his peers. It was after encountering him that Lu Song Gao opened his doors to all whether Muslim or not.

Where it can be found

Since that time Xinyi Liuhe Quan has spread throughout Shanghai and become one of its representative martial arts styles. Today you can find people in almost every park in the city practicing in the morning, who are attracted to it for its health benefits, as well as more serious practitioners who practice the system in its entirety, albeit often behind closed doors.

To find out more you can visit

The Shaolin Mountain Run

The infamous Shaolin mountain run is fundamental part of Shaolin Kung Fu training. Whether you’re studying at one of the many kung fu schools in and around the Songshan Shaolin Temple or somewhere else, the run normally begins each morning before breakfast, or at minimum takes place once a week. This type of mid-distance hill climb not only pushes the body but the will power of students as they charge up and down the mountain, often descending steep steps on all fours.  This type of traditional training places emphasis on strength and stamina. It separates the weak from the chaff.

In order to properly prepare yourself before you arrive in China as well as improve your strength, stamina and potential running times I’ve put together these three core running workouts that you can do throughout the week.

cen-21. Aerobic Workouts and Preparation:

The mountain run is all about running at a consistent and comfortable speed with the right cadence to reduce effort and build fat-burning exnzymes, cardiovascular endurance, and time on your feet.  Alternating between long runs and short sprint training is a good tactic as a training method. As is making sure you start your hill climb in the knowledge that a power hike on the upward climb might be more efficient than running until you’ve built up your endurance and stamina. Power hiking is something that can also be trained for and is an excellent way to keep your heart rate in check. Another highly recommended tip is to swap your kung fu shoes for running shoes. Kung Fu shoes are super cool and excellent for form practice, but for the sake of injury prevention do the mountain run in your running shoes. You’ll thank me later.

2. Threshold Workouts:

The threshold is where your body begins to use more glycogen for energy and less fat, and when you train at and slightly above it, you can “raise the roof,” so to speak, so you can run faster at easier efforts (pretty cool). There are several workouts that you can fit in this slot, below are three.

How to find “threshold effort”: You know you’re at this effort when things start to feel uncomfortable, and it’s hard to talk. If you can get out one word responses, you’re there. If you can tell me what you did last night, you need to pick things up. If you’re gasping for air, slow it down. Because this is a physiologically based run, it works best when running by your effort rather than a pace; as you gain fitness, your pace will improve or you may slow down when the elements are challenging (heat and humidity). At the kung fu school its relatively easy to bond with other students. Finding a running partner is not going to be difficult. Doing the mountain run together and talking to each other supporting and driving each other you are able to find your threshold effort. With your partner you can select a combination of the three workouts or choose the most appropriate one that fits with your training schedule.

Five-Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeat four to five times: Run five minutes at or slightly above your threshold. Recover by jogging easy for two minutes in between. Cool down running five minutes easy and walking three minutes slowly.

2 or 3 x 10-Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeat two to three times: Run 10 minutes at or slightly above your threshold effort. Recover by jogging easy for two minutes in between. Start with two repeats and build to three over time (maybe even next season). Cool down running five minutes easy and walking three minutes slowly.

20-30 Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Run 20-30 minutes at or slightly above your threshold effort. Cool down running 10 minutes at an easy effort and walking 3 minutes slowly.

Mountain Run

3. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Workouts):

These workouts may be the hardest effort-wise, but they also make the most dramatic changes in aerobic fitness, speed, metabolism and caloric burn, and overall fitness. My favourite HIIT Workout is:

1-2-3 Intervals:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeats two to three times: Run one minute at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone. Recover with one minute easy walk or jog. Run two minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and one minute jogging easy to catch your breath and recover. Run three minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and two minutes jogging easy to catch your breath and recover.

Another option for your third workout is to alternate HIIT speed intervals one week with hill repeats the next. In both cases, you are working at a high intensity–in one, focusing on speed; in the other, building strength.

Workouts 4-5: Training on three running days is an effective strategy, but it also works well when you fill in the gaps with strength training and a low-impact cardio activity like deep stance training or static holds. Since your three running days all lie on the harder end of the effort scale, keep the stance training and strength workouts to an easy to moderate effort. That way, you won’t miss recovery along the way and get into a chronically fatigued state by training too hard.

As you put these workouts together, it will look a little something like this (this is a sample training plan):

Monday: Easy-effort stance and strength training
Tuesday: Interval workout (1-2-3s)
Wednesday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 14 miles
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, light moving qigong, taichi (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong, taichi 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Easy aerobic run — 45-60 min.
Wednesday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong, taichi 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 10 miles (race effort: five easy miles, four at moderate effort, one mile hard)
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, qigong, taichi (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Mountain run (repeats or hilly road)
Wednesday: Easy-effort qigong, stance training, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 16 miles
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Easy aerobic run — 45-60 min.
Wednesday: Easy-effort qigong, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 10 miles (race effort: five easy miles, four at moderate effort, one mile hard)
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, qigong, taichi (light stretching)

The Mountain run schedule might look something like this:
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountian Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; 4x race effort

This is a fun, effective way to improve your mountain run times with less overall impact on your body; however, it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not a beginner’s plan–so ease yourself into it.

The Martial and Mandarin: Are you a type A student or a type B student?

In China dedicated martial arts students who plan to make the most of their time generally fall into two categories.

Type A – You’re a martial arts student in China and you’ve reached a level where in order to further develop your understanding and skill as well as make your life easier you’ve got no choice but learn the language.

Type B – You’re a Chinese language student who’s always been interested in martial arts but has yet to take the step into training. But things have finally come to a head and you’ve had enough of conversations about where you’re from, how much you earn and whether you like Chinese food, girls or football.

Chances are a few of you reading this post have had at least contemplated at least for a second combining martial arts with language learning.

You might have considered the following options. A university course with a certain amount of martial arts training, finding an elusive badass master and informally studying the language or by joining one of the many international kung fu schools and taking their free classes.

The benefit of combining martial arts and language learning can be found in the practical skills you learn that not only add to the experience but also your CV. Indeed such a step can take many in completely new directions abound with opportunities for the wily foreigner. Overall these programmes allow participants the opportunity to develop their martial arts and deepen their own understanding of Chinese culture and language.

“It’s a unique way to study with a high level master outside the normal international kung fu school route as that all important Chinese visa can be provided relatively cheaply through a University.”

Find a badass kung fu master  

This video clip above was taken in Yantai, Shandong province.

Yantai is a small second tier Chinese City on the northeast coast of China. It has cheap housing and has a good environment. Yantai is famous for a number of kung fu styles including Taichi Mantis, Tongbei quan, and Baguazhang. Locally with a little care you can find good masters. The city itself is a hot bed of kung fu schools and is well worth a look.

“Yantai is a hot bed of kung fu schools and masters on the east coast of China”

For details of our Traditional Martial Arts and Language Learning programmes in Yantai email You can also check out Master Sui’s full biography and training schedule here. Or you can have a look at this school Kunlun International Kung Fu School which has links to Ludong University in Yantai for long term visas and currently has a very good Shaolin Kung Fu and Mantis Kung Fu master that you can study martial arts with.

Two alternatives that may be more suitable for those who are less independent or would prefer an all-inclusive experience are  The Yuntai Mountain International Culture and Martial Arts School founded by Shi Yan Lin, also known as Xie Xu Yong. This school is the only martial arts school currently offering a quality half day martial arts and half day language learning programme. The other option I would recommend is Capital Sport University of Physical Education in Beijing.


Yuntai half and half programme

Master Shi Yan Lin is a master with over 10 year experience in teaching to both Chinese and International students Shaolin Martial Arts. The school is located in the famous Yuntai geological park, which attracts thousands of tourists every year and is fairly close to the fabled Northern Shaolin Temple. The Martial Arts training at the school will primarily focus on the various Shaolin fists and weapons as well as Sanda and Taichi. The school building formally a hotel has been converted into student accommodation, as a result the rooms are comfortable and comparatively of a high standard. The newly built training area and performance hall is five minute walk from the main accommodation area, so everything you need is close at hand.

The Chinese language course organised as part of the half martial arts, half language learning programme is available in partnership with Jiaozuo University. These courses can be specially tailored and intensive. This, makes the school a very real prospect for serious Chinese language learners. This close relationship between the martial arts school and the university means that long term student visas can be obtained for long term International students of the school.

The down side to the programme primarily relates to the schools relative isolation and the management insistence for compulsory school line ups throughout the day. Sometimes this can make students feel like they’re prisoners rather than students.


University Programme

Captial University of Physical Education & Sports is one of Beijing’s premier Martial Arts Training Universities providing top-ranking conditions for international and domestic students. The university is supported by Hanban and Confucius Institute offering Chinese Language Learning Programs, Martial Arts University Programs, TCM, Sports & Health Care Programs.

The University offers the following programs; 4 Year Undergraduate Programs, 3 Year Master Programs, 3 Year Ph.D Programs, 1-2 Year Non-degree Programs and Short-term Programs.

The Universities Featured Programs are:

1. Chinese Language Programs
The University employs a special team for teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. This team is specializes in training international students who want to learn Chinese Culture and speak the Chinese Language. Class sizes are smaller than other universities and attention and help given to students is higher than at other Universities.  Thjs helps to ensure that students acquaire the language competences sufficent for their speciality studies in China. Small classes of differnt levels are provided as well as one-to-one teaching to meet students needs.

2. Martial Arts Programs
According to the period of study students can expect to study martial arts from martial arts champions who are experienced in both teaching and competitions for performance and also sport.

3. TCM Sports Health Care Programs
The instructor for this program is Ru Kai an assistant professor of Sports Rehabilitiation Department of Schools of Sports Science and Health. He is also the successor and master of Xisui Neigong, Baduanjin and Yijinjing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 22.44.23

One of the main benefits from studying Mandarin at Capital Sports University is obviously the facilities, access to top coaches plus relatively small class size for language learning.

If you would like to learn more about studying martial arts and learning Chinese check out these great articles.

9 Mistakes to avoid when learning Chinese at a Kung Fu School in China

The things Chinese People Say


Martial Arts Travel Guide for China

People who travel to China without downloading this travel guide are 138% more likely to be unprepared for the journey ahead. All right, so maybe we’re exaggerating this point to grab your attention. However, the fact is that after you’ve read this guide you will know exactly what preparations are required before you begin your journey and also how you can deal with all that China has to offer.

This guide walks you through, the dreaded Chinese visa, what to pack, health and safety, money and banking, domestic travel, living in China, communications and much more.

You’ll learn:

  • How to prepare in advance of your trip
  • How to keep you and your belongs safe
  • What you’ll need to become an expert traveler
  • How to earn extra travel & training cash
  • Ways to save money

Download the guide here

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 22.50.14

Why people choose us

At StudyMartialArts.Org we are passionate about Martial Arts and Travel. We believe that the combination of both provide a powerful catalyst for greater awareness. Our mission is based on connecting you to the right schools, masters or instructors.

Below you will find a testimonial from one of our past students Arvid Velt. Arvid first joined the SMA 1 month intensive martial arts travel and training tour. On this tour we combine historic sites fun and travel with training with a variety of high level masters throughout China. During that time we assisted him and advised him on the next move to bring his training to the next level.

Arvid at the time of the filming through our support and that of his Master studied in China for two years.

For further information contact us at info@StudyMartialArts.Org or visit our website. www.StudyMartialArt.Org Or why not view our other testimonials here.

The Importance of Hard Qigong in Chinese Traditional Martial Arts

by An Jian Qiu

At An Wushu, we believe that if you want to use your kung fu in combat, you must train hard qigong.

(What is hard qigong? Breathing and conditioning exercises that make your body harder, more resistant to pain, and able to give and take more force without becoming injured. Breaking a brick with your hand is probably the most well-known example.)

Many schools don’t share this belief, so it makes sense you may be wondering why…

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario: Imagine if you were to go and punch a brick wall as hard as you could, right now. What do you think would happen? You’re probably thinking about:

Hurting your hand badly, maybe even breaking your fingers or wrist
Losing your calm due to the pain
Instinctively hunching over your posture and holding your damaged hand to your chest
Why did this happen?

Obviously, the brick wall was much harder than your hand and wrist… or put differently: your body wasn’t strong enough to deliver your strike.

And what if you’d been fighting a live opponent? Losing focus so drastically can be the difference between life and death or victory and defeat.

Of course, hopefully your opponent isn’t as hard as a brick wall(!), but the difference is small when you’re both moving at high speeds and impacting at the strange angles of real combat, not “straight-on” like when you hit a bag. If you’re unconditioned, it doesn’t take a lot of force to become seriously injured.

Hopefully this has shown you why hard qigong is so important for offense.

What about for defense?

The example is obvious: imagine you get punched in the stomach so hard that you lose track of your senses. The next hit is definitely coming for your head!

At An Wushu, one of the things we recommend all new students do is ask Shiye (Grandmaster) An De Sheng if you can touch his stomach. No, we aren’t crazy… despite being 67-years-old, an age where most will have lost all their muscle mass, Shiye’s stomach is harder than steel from years of hard qigong. (The look of surprise on a new student’s face when they poke Shiye’s stomach is always a fun moment for older students.)

This is what days and days of hard qigong training does to the body: your body becomes not just firm like from working out, but literally hard like iron. This is where the name ‘Iron Body’ comes from.

As you progress through lower levels of training, you’ll find yourself taking less damage: receiving less bruises from sparring and watching them disappear much more quickly.

At higher levels of training, this protects you from even more harm, you heal amazingly quickly, and eventually, your opponent will hurt themselves by hitting you! The level of focus you can now have in training and fighting is what it needs to be for you to reach a truly high level of kung fu skill.

As a bonus, the hard chi that is packed into your body by hard qigong also greatly increases your physical health, your strength and your ability to fali/fajin (generate power). There are schools of Daoism that practice hard qigong purely for its health benefits.

These days, hard qigong isn’t so popular and has been lost from many styles, but in the years of true masters, hard qigong was a core part of all traditional kung fu systems. The ability to survive both your own offence, and your opponent’s, is a non-negotiable for a true fighter.

An Jian Qiu, is the headmaster of An Wushu International Martial Arts School in Dezhou, Shandong Province, China.

For further information on studying at An Wushu or other traditional martial arts schools in China visit www.StudyMartialArts.Org


Wudang Gong Fu & Health Academy

For sometime I’ve been looking to connect to the best Wudang Kung Fu schools located on Wudang Shan. Using the StudyMartialArts.Org network of respected fellow martial artists, friends and kung fu brothers I’ve researched visited and connected to a number of schools over the years.

One of the best on Wudang Shan that we have recently connected to is Master Tang’s academy close to Taichi Lake.

The Wudang Gong Fu & Health Academy is a small school with a detailed and structured education program.

Students who wish to enter and be accepted onto one of their special education programs covering the essential training of Wudang Xuan Wu Pai have the chance of becoming a Wudang Disciple and genuine linage holder of Wudang Internal Martial arts. Pending suitable performance and dedication of course.

The headmaster Tang Li Long is one of the main disciples of Grand Master You Xuan De. Master Tang has years of experience teaching Internal Wudang Martial Arts. He has created a system that teaches the essence effectively and under his guidance students will learn the tradition preserved on the mountain.

Tang Li Long’s vision is to spread the Wudang Daoist knowledge around the world in order to preserve the traditional teachings of dào fǎ zìrán ”the natural way” (道法自然) and the 10 Taoist principles of Wudang Pai. His school has a family feel to it where kung fu brothers and sisters from different countries, backgrounds and experiences can all share their knowledge in order to better understand the way of the Dao.



Master Tang Li Long is a 15th generation Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Master of the Xuan Wu Pai. Encouraged by his father he started training Martial Arts in his home town at a young age. Later, after studying Wudang Taiji Quan in Wuhan for a well known master he was told to go to Wudang Mountain to become a Wudang Disciple. He’s master sent a mail to the Wudang Shool of Martial Arts and some time later he was invited to come and study for 14th generation Wudang Master You Xuande, who was the Abbot of the Wudang Temples and the keeper of the Wudang Martial Arts.

Wudang Disciple 1994 he arrived at Wudang Mountain and started to learn from Grand Master You. After a long time of hard training Master Tang became one of the main diciples of You Xuande. With a genuine background with in Taiji Quan his skills and understanding where different from other students. He worked close to Master You and helped him write down ideas about Martial Arts and Daoism. Tang Li Long is now one of the “5 Dragons of Wudang” and a linage holder of the Wudang Xuan Wu Pai. 1998 he won a Medal in the 1st World Traditional Wushu Championships and 1999 he was awarded as a outstanding Master in a big Wudang Taiji Quan gathering.
Tang Laoshi, Master Tang Li Long, or “Tang Laoshi” as most people call him, has almost 20 years of experience of Wudang Martial Arts and have a system of teaching that is different from other schools on the mountain. He teaches the foundations of the style and focus on Basics, Qi Gong and Applications. His long time students has won many competitions and gained high skills in Wudang Wushu. His main skill is his ability to bring out good quality of the training and the students and teach the essence of Wudang Internal Martial Arts. He holds a position as secretery of the International Wudang Mountain Taiji Gongfu Association and have done performances in China, Korea and Germany. He has publiced articles in the Chinese Martial Arts Wudang Wind Magazine and Hubei Daily Newspaper. He was mentioned in a book about famous Gongfu Masters in 2010 (“Chinese Folk/Unofficial Gongfu Masters” – “Zhongguo Mingjian Wushu Mingjia”). In 2010 set up the school and the present location in Wudangshan, same year his student Jakob Isaksson, Sweden, won a Silver and Brons Medal in the 4th World Traditional Wushu Championships.

Tang Li Longs philosophy is to wholeheartedly train the disciples and carry on the tradition.

Learn more about Master Tang’s Academy including full training curriculum and prices. 

Chang Ping Martial Arts Festival.

A little footage taken from the Chang Ping Annual International Martial Arts Competition held every Summer from the 25th to the 28th of July.

‘All are welcome to compete in various forms and combat sports.’

Chang Ping is 45 minutes from the Center of Beijing and is easily reached by public transport. A direct bus will leave every thirty minutes from Jishuitan Subway station, Line 2. Bus 883 leaves from outside the subway station and will take you to the Chang Ping Gymnasium where the competition is held.

Below you can see Master An Jian Qiu’s Bajiquan performance at the competition.